Pisgah Mountain News, June 5, 2008

New Wal-Mart going up
Arden supercenter could open by late fall

By Julie Ball

ARDEN – Shoppers in south Buncombe and northern Henderson counties could have a new mega-store to spend their money as early as the end of the year.

The new Wal-Mart Supercenter on Airport Road in Arden could be ready for its grand opening in late fall of this year or early next year, according to Tara Stewart, senior manager in Public Affairs and Government Relations for Wal-Mart.

The building is taking shape just off Airport Road, not far from the Wellington Mobile Home Park.

The Buncombe County Board of Adjustment approved the 204,000-square-foot project in June of 2006. The plan approved by the board calls for 917 parking spaces on the 37-acre site.

The total square footage of the supercenter is 188,494, Stewart said in an e-mail. Stewart did not have specifics about any other stores on the site.

Wal-Mart supercenters sell groceries along with discounted items. As of January, the company had 102 supercenters in North Carolina, according to its Web site.

The Airport Road building’s design reflects the “unique architecture of their surroundings,” according to Stewart. It will not be the “blue and gray boxes” typically associated with Wal-Mart.

Jim Coman, Buncombe County planner, said the site has two out-parcels slated for development.

Although the county approved the project in 2006, the development was delayed by concerns from the N.C. Division of Water Quality over wetland disturbance on the site.

“It was wetlands mitigation that took so long. That was the longest permit that they had to require,” Coman said.

Kevin Barnett, environmental specialist with the N.C. Division of Water Quality, said Wal-Mart did receive the needed permits to move forward.

“They preserved the remaining wetland that they did not have to impact in order to build their project, and they enhanced the stream that runs along the back of the property,” Barnett said.

Wal-Mart also agreed to pay into the state’s Ecosystem Enhancement Program, money that is used to provide mitigation to projects that disturb wetlands and streams, Barnett said.

In addition, “They are going to collect rainwater off their roof and parking lot and use them to use that to irrigate the trees they plant and also to go back into the wetland area,” Barnett said.

Stewart said in the e-mail the company agreed to provide “Low Impact Development practices to a degree suitable for the property and the project.”

Traffic concerns

Some shoppers say they will make the switch to the new store from the existing Wal-Mart discount store on U.S. 25 in south Asheville.

“It will be quite a bit more convenient,” said H.E. Wilkie of Hoopers Creek near Fletcher.

But Tara Keyser, of Arden, who is not a Wal-Mart shopper, worries about the new store’s effect on traffic along Airport Road.

“I think it (traffic) is going to be horrible,” said Keyser. “The traffic over at the other one (in Asheville) in horrendous.”

Mark Teague, division traffic engineer with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, said five-lane roads like Airport Road can generally handle 30,000 to 50,000 cars per day.

Right now, the road carries 31,000 cars per day at the section near the intersection of Rockwood Road and about 22,000 near the intersection with U.S. 25, according to 2006 traffic maps.

A large standalone store typically increases the traffic totals by 4,000 to 8,000 cars per day, according to Teague.

Wal-Mart will be putting in a traffic signal at its entrance, according to DOT.

The Wal-Mart store on U.S. 25 in south Asheville will close for remodeling after the Airport Road store opens, according to Stewart. The remodeling will take about one year.

“We are ‘flexing’ the current store — adding square footage to make it a supercenter,” Stewart said in the e-mail. “This phase of construction is already fully entitled and approved by the city.”

Employees of the U.S. 25 store will move to the new store on Airport Road while the remodeling project is under way.

Outside the Target store, which is part of another major shopping center on Airport Road, Arden residents Kathy and Bill Murphy said they will shop at the new supercenter once it opens.

The reason — prices, specifically the price of diapers and baby wipes. The Murphys also say the new store will be more convenient.

“It’s less than a mile from my house,” Kathy Murphy said.

But Margie Penland, of Candler, is disappointed that the U.S. 25 Wal-Mart store will be remodeled into a larger supercenter. Penland said when she shops, she travels to the south Asheville store or she travels to Waynesville.

“I just don’t care too much for the supercenter,” she said. “That one (in Asheville) stays too busy. You have to wait too long.”

Meanwhile, Keyser says she’s sticking with Target.

“I don’t plan to shop there. I generally don’t shop at Wal-Mart,” she said.

Contact Ball at 232-5851 or jball@PISGAHMOUNTAINNEWS.com.